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Annual Report 2011 - 2012

Our people

We value our people and understand that to support them we need to promote their health and wellbeing and provide professional development and career opportunities.

Legal Aid NSW is responding to identified health and wellbeing needs by implementing recommendations put forward by the Health and Wellbeing Steering Committee.

In both systems and learning, we continued to embrace the advantages of online technology, for e-recruitment and course delivery, respectively. Face-to-face contact remains important, however, and our new learning centre will bring staff, partners and other members of the legal service community together and promote a ‘One Legal Aid’ culture.

Fact file
965 staff, 427 in regional offices and 538 in Central Sydney
477 lawyers and 488 administrative and corporate services staff
41 Aboriginal staff
709 women and 256 men
71 lawyers have specialist accreditation

Major achievements

Priority: Supporting our people

Health and wellbeing of our staff

Legal Aid NSW recognises that ensuring the health and wellbeing of all staff is fundamental to a productive culture. To this end we established the Health and Wellbeing Steering Committee in late 2011 and appointed a Health and Wellbeing Project Officer in April 2012.

After extensive research and consultation with the Executive, the Committee made a series of recommendations to address the health and wellbeing needs of staff identified in the 2011 Legal Aid NSW Mental Health and Wellbeing Baseline Survey.

The survey showed that, while some staff experience stress, anxiety and depression to varying degrees, their overall wellbeing is similar to that of all other organisations.

The Committee’s recommendations included piloting a well-check program, increasing education and awareness training, and improving and promoting the Employee Assistance Program. The CEO approved the recommendations in June 2012. Implementation will begin in 2012–2013.

Staff were encouraged to become more physically active through the Spring into Summer program and participation in one of the seven CEO-sponsored teams in the Global Corporate Challenge where their goal was to walk at least 10,000 steps a day.

Health and Wellbeing Steering Committee

Members of the new Health and Wellbeing Steering Committee – their recommendations for improving staff health will lead the way in 2012-2013.

Occupational health and safety

Our focus was the new work health and safety legislation which introduces a uniform national framework. We developed online modules to educate staff and managers about their responsibilities under the legislation and began developing systems to support it.

We shared processes for injury management across the Justice Cluster.

Staff numbers 5-year trend
Year FTE* figures**
financial year end
Actual staff
no financial year end
2011–2012 882.72 965
2010–2011 880.28 972
2009–2010 827.80 909
2008–2009 824.34 912
2007–2008 784.77 852

*FTE: full time equivalent
** See Appendix 2 for more details

Staff movements 4-year trend
Staff movements 2008–09 2009–10 2010–11 2011–12
New permanent staff 45 29 15 12
Staff departures 56 41 52 44
Promotions 24 26 26 21

Data not recorded before 2008

Workers’ compensation

Of the 50 workers’ compensation claims lodged in 2011–2012, one injury occurred in 2008–2009 and six in 2010–2011. Figures and costs incurred by these seven claims have been included in the 2011–2012 figures. Of the total 50 claims, 47 were accepted.

The cost to 30 June 2012 of new claims reported in 2011–2012 was $357,096, compared to $236,840 in 2010–2011, an increase of $120,256, or 50.8%.

The number of accepted claims (which includes claims accepted under provisional liability), increased from 22 in 2010–2011 to 47 in 2011– 2012. Of the accepted claims, there were 11 fall/slip and seven body stress claims (for example, repetitive strain injury) amounting to $19,419, or 5.44% of the total cost of claims.

There was an increase in psychological injuries (post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety disorders and depression) from nine in 2010–2011 to 16 in 2011-2012.

Of the 16 psychological claims lodged in 2011–2012, nine claims have been finalised. Costs incurred by these psychological claims amounted to $280,532 or 78.56% of the total cost of claims for the year.

The number of full-time equivalent (on average) staff for this financial year was 882.72, an increase of 2.44 from 880.28 in 2010–2011. This equates to an average claim cost of $404.54 per staff member compared to $269.05 per staff member in 2010–2011.

The total number of ‘Incident only’ reports was 20, the same as in the previous year.

Record of work-related incidents
Type of injury/incident No. of reports
No. of reports
Workplace 12 4
On duty (not at office) 1 4
Journey 5 9
Recesses – lunchtime & authorised breaks 2 3
Total injuries/incidents 20 20


Record of workers’ compensation claims
Type of claims No. of claims
No. of claims
Workplace 16 26
On duty (not at workplace) 4 6
Journey 5 14
Recesses – lunchtime & authorised breaks - 4
Total claims lodged 25 50
Total claims accepted 22 47
Total claims not accepted 1 1
Claims under investigation - 2
Claims declined 2 2

EEO profile

Priority: Supporting our people

Legal Aid NSW outperformed the NSW Government benchmark of 2.6% for employing Aboriginal staff, with Aboriginal people representing 4.3% of total staff.

More detailed EEO information is available in Appendix 3.

Learning and development

Fact file
Course, seminar, workshop and conference attendances (comprising 4,412 staff and 1,182 external partners) 5,594
Online sessions completed (comprising 1,069 staff and 92 external partners) 1,161
New online users 1,378
Total registered online/ LMS* users 4,824
External LMS* users 3,280
Number of external events (attended by 320 staff) 286

* our online Learning Management System

Major achievements

Priority: Supporting our people

Online learning increases

The significant increase in completion of online learning underlined our commitment to improving accessibility to learning opportunities for those who have difficulty in attending face-to-face training.

Our online Learning Management System* attracted 1,378 new users in 2011–2012, taking total user numbers for the year to 4,824. Nearly 70% of registered users were not employed by Legal Aid NSW.

Not only did the breadth of online courses increase, but improvements resulted in a more interactive learning experience. This year we recorded 1,161 completions of online modules, more than double that for the previous year. Just under 10% of online course completions were by external users.

Health and wellbeing

The comprehensive training calendar included three very well-attended courses: Demystifying Mental Illness (40 participants), Managing Change (34 participants) and Managing Psychological Injury (31 participants). Other programs, some specifically for managers, were available in managing stress, handling workplace conflict constructively, assertiveness and various areas of people management.

Two hundred and ten staff accessed online training relating to the new work health and safety legislation and 110 accessed the managers’ course on the legislation.

Priority: Excellence in legal services

We provided 36 legal seminars and legal conferences covering diverse topics and attended by 2,006 inhouse and external lawyers. Attendance by external lawyers increased by 14%.

Course attendences 5 year trend graph

Note: Online course completions have almost doubled from last year.

Staff conferences included two for office managers and one for managers, our second such conference, attended by 115 people.

In line with our commitment to excellence in services for people experiencing domestic or family violence, there were two training sessions for legal and non-legal staff covering such topics as domestic violence awareness, initial screening, safety planning and referrals.

Sixty one people (35 external participants) sought to improve service delivery to Aboriginal clients by attending Aboriginal Cultural Awareness Training and a further 21 attended sessions related to developing their awareness of other cultures.

“I appreciate the difficult and challenging work that our staff do and recognise it is our role to assist and support them in managing this as best we can.”
CEO Bill Grant

Priority: Linking services

New learning centre

Our new learning centre opened in November 2011 at the Central Sydney office. Rooms were named in the language of the Gadigal people, describing a place for respectful communication.

Meredith James, Scott Hawkins, Kevin Hassan and David Fenech

Meredith James, Scott Hawkins, Kevin Hassan and David Fenech were part of the team who helped create a new learning centre.

Developing skills base of staff

The family law practice adopted an innovative, structured approach to developing the capacity of staff via the family law learning and development framework. The file review and individual planning process enables the identification of developmental expectations for each staff member. This program has been successfully implemented across family law with 95% of staff nominating and participating in a learning and development stream of targeted skills development.

Priority: Supporting our people


Our conferences enjoy a growing reputation as stimulating learning forums, attracting greater numbers of external participants each year.

More than 200 delegates attended the civil law conference in June. Keynote speakers included Justice Virginia Bell of the High Court of Australia and human rights advocate Father Frank Brennan.

Justice Virginia Bell with CEO, Bill Grant

Inspiring keynote speaker Justice Virginia Bell with Bill Grant, CEO of Legal Aid NSW, at the civil law conference.

The theme of Law for Everyday Life focused on legal problems such as debts, unpaid fines, discrimination, tenancy, and Centrelink disputes.

Our inaugural conference on child representation in May attracted 156 delegates. It adopted a multidisciplinary approach with hands-on workshops.

The annual family law conference in August 2011 was attended by more than 300 people. The theme was the safety and wellbeing of children in the family law system. The care and protection conference provided an excellent opportunity for participants to keep up with the changes in this jurisdiction.

Diploma welcomes partner agencies

This year our Diploma of Management Program increased its intake to 30 participants. This year’s program offered 10 places to our partners in Community Legal Centres and the Aboriginal Legal Service.

Diploma of Management Program participants

The Diploma of Management Program attracted 30 participants from Legal Aid NSW and partner agencies.

Workplace management and relations

Priority: Supporting our people

Legal Aid NSW began implementing the e-recruitment system known as Taleo.

After the success of the first phase in 2011–2012, all staff movements and recruitment are now conducted online. Phase Two in 2012–2013, which will involve publishing all selection documents online, aims for a paperless recruitment process.

We commissioned an independent review of our guidelines on flexible working hours to examine how well our systems are functioning, particularly the effect of workloads on staff working hours.

Professional and personal achievements

In June 2012 the Federal Attorney- General announced the appointment of Kylie Beckhouse, Executive Director of the Family Law Division, to the Family Law Council.

Staff from the family law practice presented papers at a range of prestigious international, national and state forums and conferences.

Priority: Supporting our people

Seventy-one lawyers have specialist accreditation (NSW Law Society qualifications for expertise in the field). We have achieved an increase in the specialist accreditation from the previous year of 4%.

Policy and reviews

Legal Aid NSW finalised the office manager review, which resulted in an upgrade to office manager positions in recognition of the responsibilities in the position description.

The independent Medibank Health Solutions Report began on 1 September 2011 with the aim of better understanding the factors influencing staff health and wellbeing in the criminal law practice. The Health and Wellbeing Steering Committee has so far implemented 70% of the report’s recommendations and will implement the remainder over the next six months.

The review of the Advocacy Unit in the criminal law practice was completed in 2011.

Planning ahead

Year ahead

Improve our induction process by offering online modules that clearly explain the work of each business area.

Expand learning opportunities to more external participants.

Provide a diversity of quality training programs to assist staff to manage health and wellbeing.

Promote the new Health and Wellbeing Strategy to staff, encouraging them to take advantage of debriefing and support services.

Review workers’ compensation processes in collaboration with the insurer and the Justice Cluster with a view to minimising the number of injuries/incidents and claims.

Increase Aboriginal employment to 5.5% of staff.

Invite staff to complete an EEO survey that will give us qualitative and quantitative feedback on current and future needs.

Key challenge

Managing the workplace changes resulting from NSW Government budget savings, while addressing their impact on staff health and wellbeing. We will closely manage any adverse impact, keeping staff and clients well informed and supporting them as best we can.